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Top Website Security Threats You Need to Watch Out For

Website security professionals are tirelessly defending computer systems against different types of cyber threats. Cyber attacks hit websites and businesses every day and these attacks have increased quickly and in different varieties.

The motives of cyber attacks are many and one being money. Cyber attackers may take a system offline and demand money to regain its functionality. These types of attacks are now more sophisticated than ever.

Corporations are the most vulnerable to security threats but individual websites are targets too, especially because they store personal information on their mobile phones and use insecure public networks.

Tracking evolving and increasing website security threats is the key to better website security. 

What is a website security threat?

Website security threats are web-based threats that are a category of cybersecurity risks that can cause an undesirable event or action via the internet. These threats are made possible by end-user vulnerabilities, web service developers/operators, or web services themselves.

The consequences of a web threat may damage individuals and organizations regardless of the intent or cause of the threat. These threats expose computer systems to harm online.

The most common web security threats are computer viruses, data theft, and phishing attacks. Web security threats involve cyber criminals using the internet to cause harm to users. 

The problems caused include denial of access to computers and networks, unauthorized users may access and use corporate networks, private data may be exposed or stolen, and unauthorized changes to computers and networks may happen too.

These web security threats will increase as people become more reliant on the web, creating new vulnerabilities for attackers to exploit. Below is a list of web security threats you need to watch out for.

#1. Phishing Attacks 

In a phishing attack, a hacker pretends to be an individual you trust like your bank or your boss. The hacker emails you using a familiar email address which is slightly altered. Most of the time they email you a link or attachment.

The link or the attachment directs you to a website where you log into your account, or enter your personal information such as Social Security numbers, names, addresses, or bank account numbers. Through this, malware is installed on your device which is designed to harvest sensitive information, send out emails to their contacts or provide remote access to your devices.

Phishing attacks have grown much more sophisticated in recent years since attackers are becoming more convincing in pretending to be legitimate business contacts. One of the main reasons why phishing attacks are so damaging is that they are difficult to combat.

How to avoid Phishing attacks

  • Have a strong Email Security Gateway
  • Enroll in Security Awareness Training
  • Have Multi-factor authentication.

#2. Spyware

Spyware is a form of malware that gathers data from you and your devices without your consent and sends it to third-party individuals. It tracks and monitors users’ actions on a computer device and collects sensitive information then shares it with advertisers, data collection firms, and cyber criminals, who use your data to make a profit.

Spyware is also used to steal and sell user data like bank accounts, credit card numbers, and login credentials. It is difficult to identify spyware and it can cause severe damage to devices and networks. It can leave your business vulnerable to data breaches, affect the device and network performance and inhibit user activity.

Spyware can affect desktop browsers, mobile phones, and even desktop applications.

#3. DOS & DDOS attacks

A denial of service (DoS) is a cyber attack that floods a computer or network making it unable to respond to requests. A distributed denial of service (DDos) occurs when a website server receives too much traffic or requests that overwhelm and overload the system. DDoS attacks originate from a computer network.

These attacks flood your servers with numerous requests until they succumb to them leading to crashing your website. Hackers use a flood attack to disrupt the “handshake” process and carry out a Dos. Some hackers use the time that a network is disabled to launch other attacks.

A botnet is a type of DDoS that involves a collection of software robots that can be infected with malware and controlled by a hacker. Botnets are also known as Zombie systems, targeting and overwhelming a target’s processing capabilities.

The controller (hacker) can send infected emails and spread malware to other websites using the Zombies. They can also recruit your computer into an army to carry out DDoS attacks.

#4. Malware

Malware is the shortened term for malicious software that hackers design and install on your IT and computer systems without your knowledge. Malware is a phrase for any software designed to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to a system.

Malware can spread in many ways such as by plugging in infected USB drives to accidental downloads from infected websites. These malicious programs include viruses, spyware, and worms.

These programs can easily get any sensitive data that might be present on the infected systems and infect your website. Malware is activated once a user clicks on a malicious link or attachment leading to the installation of dangerous software. 

Activated malware can block access to key network components, install additional harmful software, covertly obtain information by transmitting data from the hard drive, or disrupt individual parts making the system inoperable.

Related: 10 Easy Ways To Constantly Improve Your Website in South Africa.

#5. Computer virus

Computer viruses are the most common among internet security threats currently. These viruses enter your computer by attaching themselves to a host file or a system. The viruses can create damage instantly or remain dormant for some time.

The viruses aim to infect your other computers and networked systems. You can protect your computers from viruses by setting up a firewall. The firewall works by blocking external access to your network systems.

Although it’s not 100% perfect, it will slow down cyber attackers.

#6. Cross-Site Scripting

Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a form of a web security issue that enables hackers to execute malicious scripts on trusted websites. Web applications or pages are used to submit malicious code and compromise user interactions.

This enables the attackers to seize a user’s identity to carry out malicious activity, gain authorized access to corporate information, or even steal their data. The script used in XSS attacks prevents users’ browsers from identifying malicious activity and so the attacker can freely browse the user’s cookies, sensitive data, and session tokens stored in their browser.

#7. Ransomware

Ransomware is a form of malware in which an attacker holds their victim’s data or a computer hostage. The attacker threatens to block access to, corrupt, or publish the data if the victim does not pay a certain amount of money.

However, no guarantee that paying the ransom will restore the system’s full access or functionality.

These attacks are initiated through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments or links that lead to malware being downloaded into a user’s computer. Once the malware infects the device, it looks for files to encrypt and prevents users from accessing them.

Ransomware can also spread through drive-by downloading, which occurs when users visit an infected website that downloads malware onto their device without their knowledge.

#8. Computer Worm

A computer worm is a type of malicious software program that infects other computers while remaining active on infected systems. It is a malicious, self-replicating software program that affects the functioning of software and hardware programs.

Worms eat up vast amounts of computer memory and network bandwidth, leading to servers, systems, and networks overloading and malfunctioning. Computer worms can operate independently, enabling them to spread between systems, unlike viruses requiring a host computer to perform malicious activity.

#9. SQL injections

SQL stands for Structured Query Language. SQL injection is a type of attack that happens when a malicious code is inserted into a server that uses SQL.

Many servers storing data for websites use SQL. SQL injection attacks target data-driven applications by exploiting security vulnerabilities in the application’s software. 

A malicious code is used to obtain private data, change and even destroy the data and this can extend to void transactions on websites. Once a server is infected, it releases information. This has now become one of the most dangerous privacy issues for data confidentiality.

#10. Brute-force attack

This is one of the most common password-cracking techniques used by attackers. In a Brute-force attack, a hacker tries to use as many character combinations as possible to figure out the correct password.

Brute-force attacks are easy to prevent but they can pose a problem if the hackers possess a powerful computing engine or gain control over an extensive network of computers.

To avoid Brute-force attacks, make sure you use strong, complex passwords that are hard to crack. It’s also wise to frequently change your password.

#11. Man in The Middle (MITM)

A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack happens when hackers insert themselves in a communication taking place between your e-commerce store and a user. If a user is connected to a vulnerable Wi-Fi or network, it’s easier for attackers to take advantage.

Attackers get between the visitor and the network and use malware to install software and use data maliciously. The hackers look out for this connection and manipulate the system to enter between the opened space.

The attacker can also pretend to be the business or the customer without one even noticing. This way they can get private data without any malware at all. This method does not leave any trace of the MITM attack unless the Wi-Fi network is searched.

You can protect yourself from MITM attacks by creating a strong encryption mechanism to prevent people from joining your network without your permission. A virtual Private Network installation on your computer can also create automatic encryptions for all of your movements through cyberspace.

#12. Identity theft

Identity theft happens when someone steals your identity to obtain your personal information or to access vital information they have like accessing the computer or social media account by login into the account using your login credentials.

The attacker can create fake identity documents in your name, get loans and benefits or apply for real identity documents in your name but using someone’s photograph.

#13. Rogue security software

Rogue security software is malicious software that misleads you to believe you have network security issues. They might convince you that a computer virus has been installed in your computer or that your security measures are not up to date.

They then go ahead to offer to install or update your security settings. This might happen by instructing you to download their program to remove the alleged viruses or pay for a tool. Both of those tricks lead to malware installation on your computer.

#14. Bots

You might have some knowledge of bots, especially those that crawl the web and help you rank your website in Search Engine Result Pages. However, there are bots specifically developed to scrape websites for their pricing and inventory information.

The hackers use that information to change your online store’s pricing or garner the best-selling inventory in shopping carts, leading to a decline in sales and revenue.

#15. Trojan horse

Trojan horse is a malware program that customers download as legitimate software. This is a trick used to make someone invite an attacker into a securely protected area.

Most of these attacks are spread through email. It appears like an email from someone you know and once you click the email and its attachment, you download malware to your computer.

Trojans can also spread by clicking on a fake advertisement. Once it’s inside your computer it can record your passwords by logging keystrokes, hijacking your webcam, stealing any sensitive data in your computer, and infecting your website.

These programs can gather data about credit or debit cards, transfer this information to the hacker, crash users’ computers or even use PC resources for the hacker’s goals without the user’s permission.

Common sources of website security threats

a). Nation States

Nation-related cyber attacks can inflict harmful impacts by disrupting communications, military activities, and everyday life.

b). Criminal Groups

These groups aim to infiltrate systems or networks for financial gain. They use phishing, spam, spyware, and malware to conduct identity theft, online fraud, and system extortion.

c). Hackers

Hackers use various web techniques to breach defenses and exploit vulnerabilities in a computer system or network. These individuals are driven by revenge, personal gain, stalking, financial gain, and political activism. In the hacker community, new types of threats are developed for the thrill of challenge or bragging rights.

d). Terrorist Groups

Terrorists attack to destroy, infiltrate, or exploit critical infrastructure to threaten national security, compromise military equipment, disrupt the economy and cause mass casualties.

e). Hacktivists

They carry out cyber attacks in support of political causes, not for financial gain. Their main targets are industries, organizations, or individuals who don’t align with their political ideas and agenda.

Malicious Insiders

This can be employees, third-party vendors, contractors, or other business associates who have legitimate access to the company assets but misuse the accesses to steal from the company or destroy information for financial or personal gain.

f). Corporate Spies

Corporate spies conduct espionage on industries or businesses to make a profit or disrupt a competitor’s business by attacking critical infrastructure, stealing trade secrets, and gaining access.

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